Aesthetic Style as a Postructural Business Ethic John Dobson

ABSTRACT. The article begins with a brief history of psychology; rather than a unified narrative, aesthetic theory. Particular attention is given to the ‘‘is a of discourses we have inherited’’ (Herwitz, postructuralist ‘aesthetic return’: the resurgence of interest 2008, p. 171). Pre-Socratic origins of the word are in aesthetics as an ontological foundation for human being­ etymologically derived from the Greek equivalents in-the-world. The disordered individual-as-emergent­ ‘to gasp’ or to ‘breath in suddenly’ (Onians, [1951], artist-and-, who is at the centre of this ‘aesthetic 1988); the word is also linked to ‘play’ and being return’, is then translated into the ‘dis’-organization that is ‘beyond time’: the firm. The firm is thus defined in terms of its primal sensory impact on the world. It invokes a myriad of aes­ Phenomena which manifest or appear with the thetic relations between its disorganized self and others: its impact of a prominent or memorable emer­ essence resides within these relations; its power of being is gence…provoke the involuntary intake of breath…A determined by its ability to project a unified aesthetic ideal – gasp of this order ‘stops’, as it were, time itself – one is a ‘mirror fantasy’. The firm thus emerges as a style: where invariably ‘breathless’ before the emergence of the style is defined as an organizing – a sculpting – of aesthetic authentically beautiful…It goes without saying that chaos. In order to achieve a grand style, the firm projects such provocations to our everyday are more than just itself through time as a unified aesthetic ideal; as an ongoing ‘‘smart and pretty’’ (Postrel, 2003, p. 182), at the very work of . The article concludes with a discussion of how least they launch a thousand ships. [Chytry, 2007, this aesthetic theory of the firm relates to other accepted p. 40] theories of the nature and purpose of business organizations. In the context of the foundational and pre- contextual nature of aesthetic judgment, Chytry KEY WORDS: postructural ethics, aesthetics, style, theory of the firm notes ‘‘the vital discovery that Schiller borrowed and expanded from Kant of the aesthetic as focused on the ‘free play’ of human faculties whenever …what is required…is to stop courageously at the understanding and imagination are in a state of surface, the fold, the skin, to adore appearance, to spontaneous openness or ‘indeterminability’ prior believe in form, tunes, words, in the whole Olympus to being ‘constrained’ either toward adopting a of appearance. Those Greeks were superficial – out of profundity. cognitive or a moral stance’’ (p. 37). In terms of developing a ‘general theory’ of aes­ Nietzsche, The Gay Science ([1882], 1974, p. 38). thetics, Kant’s Critique of Judgment is generally viewed as seminal (Herwitz, 2008; Nehemas, 1998). Kant defines aesthetic appreciation in terms of ‘‘the faculty Introduction of estimating an object or a mode of representation by means of a delight or aversion apart from any interest. The history of the study of aesthetics is vast and The object of such delight is called beautiful’’ ([1790], diverse. Theories concerning the importance of 1952, p. 139). ‘Apart from any interest’ implies that aesthetics stretch back to the origins of aesthetic judgment does not rest on ulterior utilitarian (Nehemas, 1998). Recently, the study of aesthetics motives: the ‘‘aesthetic attitude [is] the disinterested has been embraced by , art theory, (with no ulterior purpose) and sympathetic attention literary criticism, musicology, film theory, and to and contemplation of any object of awareness whatever, for its own sake’’ (Stolnitz, 1960, p. 32). both the artist and artefact, sculptor and ; Kieran provides an arboreal illustration: ‘‘the artist as his own spectator’’ (Lamb, 2005, p. 46). We might look at a tree in the garden and be The projection of our being through time is a pro­ interested in it in terms of what species it is (theoretical cess of continual creative self-transformation; a interest) or whether it is blocking out the sun and ‘‘sculpting of the self’’ (Peters and Michael, 2005,p. should be cut back (practical interest). However, we 383). In The Art of Living, Nehemas describes this might just sit back and attend to the contours of the aesthetics-as-ontology: ‘‘As in the acknowledged trunk and branches, their stratification, the way the , there are no rules for producing new and leaves rustle and sway gently in the wind, the dappled exciting works. As in the acknowledged arts, there is shadows cast on the bough, the bent-arm-like crook no best work – no best life – by which all others can of a branch as it stretches out. In this case we’re dis­ be judged…[But] that does not imply that judgment interested since we look at the tree and, if we’re lucky, is impossible, that every work is as good as so doing will afford us pleasure. [2005, p. 67] every other…[A]esthetic difference and multiplic­ Nietzsche, anticipating Freud, recognizes aes­ ity…enriches and improves human life’’ (1998,p. thetic attraction as pre-cognitively sensual: ‘‘every 10). As Nehemas notes, this notion of aesthetics as perfection, all the of things, revives through central to human being has a long pedigree stretching contiguity this aphrodisian bliss [die aphrodisische back through Aristotle to early . It has been Seligkeit]’’ ([1888], 1967, p. 1). Recently, Genette revived recently by a group of philosophers loosely has returned to Kant in emphasizing its contempla­ labelled as ‘postsructuralists’ (Cazeaux, 2000; Her­ tive nature: ‘‘an experience of intransitive, rapt witz, 2008). In order to develop an aesthetic theory attention on any object which may elicit interest’’ of the firm, it is to narrative that the remainder of (1999, p. 20). Thus any object, and not just objects this article turns. officially labelled as ‘art’, can be evaluated on the basis of aesthetic : ‘‘Aesthetics shows rather than tells, delights rather than instructs. The effects The aesthetic return are immediate, perceptual, and emotional’’ (Postrel, 2003, p. 6). Murdoch emphasizes the ability of In the introduction to The Continental Aesthetics aesthetics to transcend personal ego, and to present Reader, Cazeaux observes that ‘‘[a]esthetics has the viewer with an objective vision of : undergone a radical transformation in the last hun­ dred years’’. He continues: I am looking out of my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious to my surroundings, Traditionally, the subject [of aesthetics] has always brooding perhaps on some damage done to my pres­ occupied the margins of philosophy, for the simple tige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering Kestrel. In a reason that it deals with those aspects of experience moment everything is altered. The brooding self with which are the least amenable to categorization, i.e., art, its hurt vanity has disappeared…Good art reveals what beauty, emotion, and the ever-changing delights of the we are usually too selfish and too timid to recognize, senses. However, the divisions imposed on reality by the minute and absolutely random detail of the world, modern reason and changes brought about by the and reveals it together with a sense of unity and form. industrialization of experience have necessitated a Good art shows us how difficult it is to be objective by rethinking of the relationship between the individual showing us how differently the world looks to an and reality. Gone are notions of a distinct self in receipt objective vision…It is a kind of goodness by proxy. of a mind-independent world and, in their place, are [1980, pp. 84–87] theses to the effect that consciousness and reality are interconnected at a fundamental level…The aesthetic, Murdoch’s linking of aesthetics with morality and formerly exiled from mainstream attention, assumes with our basic being in the world invokes the most centre-stage as the region to which we can turn for foundational aesthetic narrative: the notion of a new cognitive possibilities and a sensibility that is human life itself as a . In this narrative, critical of the divisions exercised by modern thought. subject and object converge. We are individually [2000, p. xiii] Nietzsche anticipated this aesthetic return by Style as the Essence of the firm centring his philosophy on aesthetics: ‘‘we have our highest dignity in our significance as works of Essence, from the latin esse ‘to be’ delves beneath art – for it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that affective characteristics of the firm: Is the firm existence and the world are eternally justified –’’ profitable? Is the firm ethical? It plumbs the depths ([1888], 1967, p. 449). Following Nietzsche, of being in the Heideggerian ([1927] 2008) sense by Foucault wonders, ‘‘couldn’t everyone’s life be­ simply asking: Is the firm? What is the fundamental come a work of art? Why should the lamp or the impact of the firm on our sensory awareness of it? house be an art object, but not our life?’’ (1973,p. Ongoing experimental research in psychology 350). Following Foucault, the central question indicates that aesthetic impact in general has a posed in this article could be summarized as ‘Why powerful influence on both our of the should the lamp be an art object, but not the firm world, and how we act in the world. Temporally, that produced it?’ Again, this casts the firm in the aesthetic impacts can be long and contemplative, or aesthetic role of both subject and object. It also pre-attentively instant. For example, a recent study means, as Cummins observes, ‘‘the acceptance of a by Olson and Marshuetz (2005) finds that we are human individual as a metaphor for organization’’ aesthetically impacted by an object even though it is (2000, p. 162). However, this metaphor already shown to us for just a fraction of a second; indeed we exists in the poststructuralist rendition of the de- are not even aware, consciously, that we have seen centred individual (Cazeaux, 2000, pp. 367–383). it. These aesthetic impacts also influence our non- Indeed, the essential process of the aesthetics-of­ aesthetic evaluation of objects: ‘‘Improving the aes­ existence is to use art as a means of ordering and thetics of a system can have many benefits which harmonizing the disparate human psyche. Thus, extend beyond affective issues…[U]sers of an auto­ the human is already decentred; the human is a mated teller machine perceived the system to be (dis)-organization of emotional drives: ‘‘To be­ easier to use based solely on its aesthetic appear­ come master of the chaos one is; to compel one’s ance;…attractive things work better’’ (Bauerly and chaos to become form…that is the grand ambition Liu, 2008). here’’ (Nietzsche, Will to Power, [1882–1888], Today, the origin of much of these aesthetic 1967, p. 444). impacts – whether intentionally or unintentionally – This organizing and directing of disparate drives is is the firm. We are awash in business-originating captured by the concept of a stylization of existence: aesthetic stimuli: logos, products, advertising, ‘‘The creation of unity out of diversity is given [by architecture, even the phonetic impact of the firm’s Nietzsche] the name ‘style’. Style is the coordinated name, flood our senses daily. Therefore, again to exploitation of powerful instincts…Grand style, as borrow from Heidegger, we are thrown into an demonstrated by classicism, is the effect achieved aesthetic relation to the firm. This fundamental and through the harnessing of violent and varied pas­ ongoing sensory relation of us to the firm that ren­ sions, and their placement under the rule of a pre­ ders the firm, at its essence, a work of art. As Genette dominant drive’’ (Thiele, 1990, p. 63). Indeed it is observes: ‘‘it is not the object that makes the relation this concept of style as an organizing, enhancing, and aesthetic, but the relation that makes the object directing force – as developed particularly by aesthetic’’ (1999, p. 11). Our most fundamental Nietzsche, Foucault, and Derrida – that provides the relation to the firm is an aesthetic relation through basis here for an aesthetic theory of the firm. Within time. What determines the power of this aesthetic such a theory the power of the firm – in the sense of relation? What unites it and intensifies it around a the impact through time of the firm on our world – given firm? originates not in any material property (size, profit­ The power of these myriad aesthetic relations ability, etc.) nor in some measure of moral worth, between us and a given firm is unified and intensified but rather in the firm’s style. Style is the essence of the by the cultivation of a corporate style: aesthetically, firm: the grander the style the greater the initiatory the firm projects itself as a style; the grander the style impact of the firm: the more powerful the firm’s the stronger the attraction of the firm to us, being. strengthening the aesthetic relation. Thus, within this aesthetic theory of the firm, the firm itself is at its core closer to, to form a relation with, to board. How­ an idealized assimilation of aesthetic chaos. Thus, ever, why necessarily at a distance? central to this aesthetic theory of the firm is the no­ Distance is required because style encompasses the tion of the firm-as-style. Therefore, the normative totality of the individual’s/firm’s being on the world: implication here is of the firm willing toward a grand to see the sailing ship as beautiful we must see its style. However, what exactly is meant here by the totality, which requires distance. I may admire the notion of the firm’s aesthetic style? laptop on which I am currently typing as possessing The firm’s style is the essence of the aesthetic aesthetic worth: its soft colours, flowing curvelin­ relations it invokes. Style is the essence both in the earity, imaginative logo, may elicit pleasure (perhaps above sense of esse, of fundamental being; but also in even Nietzsche’s ‘aphrodisian bliss’). However, for the sense of a unified and intense force that per­ the firm that produced and/or marketed it to have meates – that flavours (to use a culinary metaphor) – style would require that whatever aesthetic qualities these myriad aesthetic relations. To illustrate, con­ this laptop possesses permeates every sensory pro­ sider the following passage from Nietzsche’s Joyful jection of this organization. In order to determine Wisdom, quoted by Derrida in Spurs: Nietzsche’s this requires that the firm is experienced, and indeed Styles: experiences itself, from a distance. Here, ‘distance’ is not geographic, although physical space is an aspect, Here I stand in the midst of the surging of the breakers, but rather psychological: the distance of non-preju­ whose white flames fork up to my feet; -from all sides dicial disinterestedness, of experiencing the firm as a there is howling, threatening, crying, and screaming at unified aesthetic object, of objectifying the firm as a me, while at the lowest depths the old earth shaker sings his aria hollow like a roaring bull; he beats such surface relation. As Genette observes ‘‘objectification an earth shaker’s measure thereto, that even the hearts constitutes aesthetic appreciation’’ (1999, p. 89). of these weathered rock-monsters tremble at the Consider, hypothetically, that I objectify Nike sound. Then suddenly, as if born out of nothingness, Inc. through a perceived style of ‘athletic grace and there appears before the portal of this hellish labyrinth, prowess’. Note that this being-in-the-world of Nike only a few fathoms distant, – a great sailing ship gliding Inc. only exists in the interstices of my aesthetic silently along like a ghost. Oh, this ghostly beauty! relation to it; ‘‘these are only – my truths’’ (Nietzsche, With what enchantment it seizes me! What? Has all in Derrida, p. 374). Nike Inc. in its physical presence the repose and silence of the world embarked here? of employees, corporate offices, financial statements, Does my happiness itself sit in this quiet place, my etc. is a style-less nexus of contracts with its ‘‘petty, happier ego, my second immortalized self? …. But pitiable bustling’’. However, when I sensually still! But still! My noble enthusiast, there is also in the experience Nike’s logo, advertising, products – when most beautiful sailing ship so much noise and bustling, and alas, so much petty, pitiable bustling! The I don my Nike running shoes – I aesthetically dis­ enchantment and the most powerful effect of woman tance myself from this ‘Nike-as-nexus-of-contracts’. is, to use the language of philosophers, an effect at a I do not see this latter physical and intellectual pres­ distance, an action in distans; there belongs thereto, ence. What I see is myself reflected in Nike’s stylistic however, primarily and above all – distance! [In Derrida prism of athletic-grace-and-prowess: I see ‘‘my (1978) 1991, pp. 357–358]. happier ego, my second immortalized self’’. Thus, at the most basic sensory level Nike Inc. is this stylized In the context of an aesthetic theory of the firm, projection of myself: ‘‘In art we are given what we Nietzsche’s ‘‘great sailing ship’’ is the firm-as-style. seek: a mirror through which we may see ourselves in The firm’s style/stylus (Nietzche’s sailing-ship’s the form of a more glorified other…’’ (Lacan, [1977], prow) penetrates the turbulent chaos of aesthetic 2008, p. 153). Through my sensory interaction with stimuli in which we are adrift: ‘‘breaks up the – my aesthetic relation to – this pair of shoes I try to waves…[leaving a]…trace, wake, indication, mark’’ board the ‘‘great sailing ship’’. (Derrida, pp. 355–356). If powerful, the firm-as­ In Lacanian terms, a powerful style plays on our style appears – necessarily at a distance – as an ‘‘insatiable appetite for otherness’’ (in Cazeaux, enigmatic but nonetheless desirable temptress, a 2000, p. 496). This style should not be confused with veiled truth-of-being: something we wish to get product design: the latter exists as a physical charac­ teristic of the shoes; the former resides purely in my ([1935–1936], 1971, p. 33). Unlike Nietzsche and aesthetic relation to them. Therefore, a pair of shoes Derrida, Heidegger’s revealed truth of the peasant may posses certain distinctive design characteristics – woman was a truth-as-such, rather than a truth-as-an­ e.g., stitching configurations, fabric combinations, error, but the conceptualization of art ‘un-concealing’ logo positioning, colour combinations, etc. – but it is similar. Nietzsche’s style/stylus reveals a fantastical is only in my aesthetic relation to this pair of shoes truth – a non-truth: ‘‘The sense of penetration is ever that the style of ‘athletic-grace-and-prowess’ emer­ present, but the core is never reached’’ (Thiele, 1990). ges. From the designer’s perspective, the challenge is The power of Nike Inc.’s style over me is to beguile to invoke the desired style; but the style itself is what me with the Lacanian (1977) ‘mirror fantasy’. A firm Genette terms an ‘‘emergent property’’ (p. 92): that conjures a style that ‘works’ – that puts (non)­ Nike’s-style-as-athletic-grace-and-prowess does not truth to work – has conjured a telos: Nike Inc.’s grand exist physically within the design of the shoe, ‘grace’ style of athletic-grace-and-prowess provides for me and ‘prowess’ are ‘‘evaluative predicates’’ (ibid.) that an ideal, an excellence, a vision of human flourishing, I use to describe Nike’s style. This style is, in turn, to which I strive through my relation to the firm. my most fundamental conjuring of Nike Inc. as a phenomenon of my experience in the world. Thus Nike’s, or any firm’s, fundamental being Normative implications for management resides in its myriad aesthetic relations with indi­ viduals. Whether these relations coalesce into a style, Clearly a firm would wish its style to be enticing and or even a grand style, depends upon whether the beguiling. However, to what extent do managers emergent properties of the firm’s sensory projections exert power to sculpt their respective firm’s style? It are consistently interpreted: Do the same evaluative is true that this style is a seductive fantasy – a predicates apply from multiple perspectives? Or beautiful ‘‘ghost ship’’ – and as such a deception or (returning to Nietzsche’s metaphor), on the churn­ mask that arises in the aesthetic relation between me ing seas of aesthetic chaos, does the firm coalesce as and the firm. However as Thiele, in summarizing an identifiable and objectifiable sailing ship? Nietzsche’s Politics of the Soul, observes: ‘‘the point of However, this ship is only distinct from a dis­ wearing masks is not so much to deceive as to grow tance. As Derrida observes, this style both veils and into them’’ (1990, p. 65). Therefore, the firm must reveals in the sense that it reveals the ‘‘non-truth of grow into its style: ‘‘Style is the exhibition of a self- truth’’ (1991, p. 359): ‘‘All the attributes, all the overcoming…[It can]…lend the appearance of unity traits, all the attractions that Nietzsche saw in woman to a plurality’’ (pp. 64–65). Therefore, to return to – seductive distance, captivating inaccessibility, and Nike Inc., if I perceive Nike’s style as athletic-grace­ infinitely veiled promise, the transcendence that and-prowess, I should see that reflected in all my produces desire, the Entfernung – belong indeed to aesthetic relations with this firm. Whatever sensory the history of truth as history of an error’’ (p. 368). impacts this firm projects – through product design, The great-sailing-ship-as-stylized-ideal exists to ‘re­ marketing, press releases, logos, the company name veal’ to me the ‘truth-as-non-truth’ of my aesthetic itself – should hold up to me a mirror of my ‘fan­ relation to Nike: in ‘truth’ neither I nor Nike Inc. tastical’ projection: ‘‘Even the smallest fragment of are athletic-grace-and-prowess. This firm’s essential the individual’s activity, like a broken piece of being in my relation only to exists behind the ‘veil’ holographic plate, can be projected to yield an image of aesthetic distance. of the whole’’ (p. 213). These hypothetical Nike-running-shoes-as-stylis­ However, style clearly is not entirely within the tic-cipher play a conceptually similar role to the pair control of the firm. It is, as defined earlier, an of peasant shoes in Heidegger’s description of art-as­ ‘‘emergent property’’ arising from my aesthetic truth-put-to-work in a by Van Gogh. He­ relation to the firm: Nike may want to project a idegger argues that Van Gogh’s painting un-conceals unified style, but it is ultimately up to the subject to some fundamental truth-of-being of peasant life: ‘‘From ‘read’ Nike as it wants to be read. For example, you the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the the reader of this article have some aesthetic relation toilsome tread of the worker stares forth’’ to Nike Inc.; you have no choice (even if you do not ‘own’ any aspect of Nike, you see the products, fashion – the essential truth-as-non-truth of which is maybe see the advertising, see the logo, hear the ‘labelled’, in the sense of being signified by the word name). However, you may not ‘read’ Nike as I do: Ben&Jerry’s. The economic challenge for the man­ your aesthetic relation to this firm may not elicit the agers of Unilever is to ensure, to the limited extent it grand style of athletic-grace-and-prowess. Far from is within their power, that the style projected by the the great-sailing-ship, the aesthetic impact of Nike word/brand ‘Ben&Jerry’s’ endures through time Inc. on you may be merely a dissonant clamor of (which is presumably why the word ‘Unilever’ is flotsam and jetsam. If you are typical, then this firm absent from Ben&Jerry’s homepage). would not constitute a grand style; its being in the The examples of Nike and Ben&Jerry’s above have world would be compromised. Its truth-as-non­ focused on the aesthetic impact of the firms’ products- truth would be too heavily veiled; the mirror fantasy logos-websites; I am cast in the role of the ‘consumer’. too clouded and distorted. This seems reasonable given that the vast majority of In addition, as beings-in-the-world firms exist our sensory relations with firms are through contact through time. The mirror fantasies shift with the seas with products-logos-websites. However, presumably of aesthetic chaos. Compare, for example, the if I were an employee of, say, Nike Inc. my aesthetic modernist gravitas of corporate names such as relation with the firm would be much deeper, International Business Machines, and Hewlett encompassing my experience of physical buildings, Packard, with the postmodern playfulness of Yahoo! co-workers, interior and exterior designs, provision and Google; as Herwitz observes: ‘‘Aesthetics is al­ of food and drink, etc. Indeed, in The Aesthetics of ways of its time, in spite of its universalizing claims. Organization, Strati goes ‘inside’ the firm and assigns …Art expresses the aspirations of the age in idealized the label ‘aesthetic’ to ‘‘personal idiosyncrasies, spe­ form’’ (2008, pp. 125 and 153). Thus, whatever cific modes of interpreting events, different views of Nike’s stylistic projections, both it and me are what to do and when to do it, and the ceaseless thrown into an aesthetic relation in a pre-existing negotiation of values, symbols and organizational and evolving cultural milieu: the ‘‘aspirations of the practices’’ (1999, p. 1). Here, Strati is clearly age’’ will ebb and flow. Likewise Nike’s, or any stretching the aesthetic label beyond the definition of firm’s, ability to project a grand style – a great sailing ‘sensory relation’ that I use here; but suffice to say that, ship – will ebb and flow. for those ‘within’ the organization, the aesthetic This temporal and indeterminate nature of style relations become more numerous and nuanced. will also add to the challenges of a firm that strives to However, again the central premise remains: the alter its style. Indeed, the grander the firm’s original richness, the beauty of my aesthetic relation with Nike style the more resistant this may prove to alteration. Inc. will depend on Nike’s style of athletic-grace-and­ Also, a broad diversity of aesthetic relations – as prowess permeating my relation; enabling me to dis­ experienced by a conglomerate such as GE or tance myself and objectify the firm as an aesthetic Unilever – will clearly add to the challenges of whole. The buildings, furnishings, decorations, food projecting a unified style; in such cases the style may and drink, etc. should possess – to my sensory per­ attach more to a particular brand or subsidiary than ception – the emergent property of athletic-grace­ to the firm itself. For example, if I enter into an and-prowess. If this is the case, then Nike Inc. has aesthetic relation with Ben&Jerry’s website home- achieved a grand style; the firm is a work of art. page – deriving pleasure from its bright colours and faux-bucolic artistry – I am experiencing a style projected by Ben&Jerry’s. The fact that legally Conclusion Ben&Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Uni­ lever in no way affects my aesthetic relation. Whe­ Nietzsche famously quipped that ‘‘with three anec­ ther we attach this relation to the ‘word’ dotes, it is possible to convey the image of any Ben&Jerry’s, or the ‘word’ Unilever, may matter individual’’ (Miller, 1993, p. 366). The aesthetic legally or economically, but not aesthetically. What theory of the firm developed here could be defined matters is that the colourful and faux-bucolic style by paraphrasing Nietzsche: ‘with three emergent enticed and beguiled me; it revealed – in a veiled properties, it should be possible to convey the image of any firm’. If this is the case, then the firm is a grand need/desire of individuals for beauty. This beauty- style. How does this theory of the firm as grand style prerogative taps into moral imperatives of the firm relate, if at all, to more conventional notions of the such as to provide meaningful work and a sense of craft nature and purpose of business? or vocation (Bowie, 1991; Klein, 1998; MacIntyre, In the case of the nature of business, theories from 1984). Also, in the oft perceived connection between various perspectives tend to coalesce around the the beautiful and the good (Murdoch, 1980; Nehemas notion of the firm as a theatre of human interaction: 1998; Stewart 2005), this firm-as-style taps into broader serving human needs, whether economic, psycho­ notions of corporate moral responsibility. logical or social (Etzioni, 1988; Newton and Ford, Therefore, as an attempt to locate the funda­ 2004; Solomon, 1994). Perhaps the most succinct mental being of the firm – to address the question: ‘Is conceptualization is that first delineated by Jensen the firm?’ – the aesthetic-theory-of-the-firm out­ and Meckling, building on the work of Coase lined here provides another perspective on what (1937). This is the notion of the firm as a ‘‘legal Jensen recently noted as the ‘‘remarkable division of fiction…[serving]…as a nexus for a set of contractual opinion about the fundamental purpose of the cor­ relations among individuals’’. They go onto note poration’’ (2001, p. 8). that ‘‘viewed in this way it makes little or no sense to try to distinguish those things which are ‘inside’ the firm from those things that are ‘outside’ of it. There References is in a very real sense only a multitude of complex relationships…’’ (1976, p. 311). The aesthetic-the­ Bauerly, M. and Y. Liu: 2008, ‘Effects of Symmetry and ory-of-the-firm outlined here bears some notable Number of Compositional Elements on Interface and similarities to Jensen and Meckling’s conceptualiza­ Design Aesthetics’, International Journal of Human- tion. Both theories recognize the conceptual Computer Interaction 24(3), 275–287. boundaries of the firm as porous: the firm exists in Bowie, N. E.: 1991, ‘Challenging the Egoistic ’, relations, whether contractual or aesthetic. Both Business Ethics Quarterly 1, 1–21. theories recognize the ‘fictional’ nature of the firm, Bowie, N. E. and R. E. Freeman (eds.): 1992, Ethics and whether in terms of law or in terms of aesthetic Agency Theory (Oxford University Press, New York). subjectivity. Where the theories clearly differ in their Cazeaux, C.: 2000, The Continental Aesthetics Reader philosophical grounding: their fundamental presup­ (Routledge, London). Chytry, J.: 2007, Organizational Aesthetics: The Artful position of the impact of the firm on the world. Firm and the Aesthetic Moment in Contemporary With Jensen and Meckling this fundamental impact Business and Management Theory. Working Paper, is legal/economic: the relations are ‘contractual’ University of California, Berkeley. relations, both explicit and implicit. With the aes­ Coase, R. H.: 1937, ‘The Nature of the Firm’, Economica thetic-theory-of-the-firm the fundamental relations New Series 4, 386–405. Reprinted in Readings in Price are aesthetic: the firm’s emergent being through time is Theory (Irwin, Homewood, IL). its immediate sensory impact on individuals. 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